My family recently received an e-mail from relatives in Poland telling us how the “true Polish national identity” is the Catholic one, and going so far as to say that anyone outside that Catholic identity is not only indifferent to the well-being of the country, but might in fact be an evil Commie. (Sound familiar?) Being that my parents have for most of their lives been practitioners of Buddhism and yoga, this rubbed them the wrong way. When my mother tried to suggest that perhaps non-Catholics, atheists, gay and Jewish people should also have a place in Polish society, the relative came back with the pleasant response that he hoped those atheists, gays and Jews would be well served by the euthanasia and abortion they so strongly believed in.
This is a growing movement in Poland right now, and many of our old friends—people who used to be rebels and freethinkers—are more and more often making these kinds of shocking statements to us. Of course, all I have to do is turn on the right radio station or website here in America and I can hear all about how this is a Christian country and only those who are Christian in the correct way are truly a part of it. Except that over here this kind of talk will be prefaced by the disclaimer that the talker believes in everyone’s right to have a different opinion or belief…it’s just that those with the different opinion are a “darkness” or a “cancer”. And a cancer needs to be removed from the body, right?
Is it just me, or does anybody else feel the gathering stormy weather? That pounding drumbeat of “those who are not like us”? I suppose that drumbeat is always there, but there are times when it seems to flare up, and right now the tension is building up so tight it feels like the planet needs to clear its sinuses. Then again, since the sinus-clearing usually entails a world war of some sort, maybe it’s better if we remain clogged.
One thing we cannot do is allow ourselves to be fooled by the relative calm. After all, Western Europe in the 20th century was a very polite, civilized society as well, wasn’t it? For now we still smile at each other on the train and give each other the fake “I’m doing great!” In a moment of real crisis, how quickly could that turn into “You are the problem and you need to go”? It has happened over and over again.
Maybe those times of horror are part of a strange birthing process by which our species grows. Hey, I have the right to delude myself as much as anyone else. All I know is that no matter where you go, you will always meet that group of people which needs to hold on to some type of dogma to be secure. And I have met those people both on the right and the left, by the way. I’m from Poland, so I’ve dealt with real Commies, not the bugaboo ones that conservatives invent over here. No matter which side the true believers are on, they are bound by one common quality: they can’t handle it when someone else thinks differently from them. It rocks their world too much. They lash out against it. Under certain circumstances, they even kill.
And no matter which time we live in, it is the duty of those of us who don’t have a closed mind to stop them from doing so. It may be a struggle which never ends. And probably one I’m not strong enough for.